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on the importance of not being invited

On the Importance of Not Being Invited: Community-led Research and Community Based Museums as Accountable Approaches to Histories of Enslavement and Freedom

Legacy Makers in conversation with Deptford People's Heritage Museum

Chaired by Lisa Robinson, Bright Ideas Nottingham

19 September 2020


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Held on the occasion of 'Chip on Your Shoulder', an exhibition exploring histories of the Deptford Naval Dockyard and its relationship to the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the struggles for freedom and the implications for the local area today, this conversation looks at the way in which (vastly under-resourced) community-led research and museum approaches respond to the current call for decolonisation and education in omissions and depictions of the history of the Slave Trade.

Legacy Makers is a community history project led by Bright Ideas Nottingham and the Slave Trade Legacies Family. The Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies Group (NSTL) were formed in 2014 to explore the extent to which UK heritage attractions acknowledge their links to the transatlantic slave trade - the forced migration of 12-15 million people from Africa to work in the Western American colonies between the 16th and 19th centuries. The project began with the bicentenary of St Matthews Church in Darley Abbey in which a group of community volunteers looked at how their enslaved African ancestors were connected to the wealth of the Abbey through the cotton trade. They have gone on to provide unsolicited advice and feedback to a number of UK attractions, actively engaging with local initiatives including Black Lives Matter Nottingham.

The People's Heritage Museum (Deptford) is located in the Pepys Resource Centre, a stone's throw from the Deptford Docks, from which notable ships travelled to abduct millions of people into the slave trade and at which struggles for abolition and freedom were plotted. Set up in the location of community resources including a food bank, women's support and other locally led initiatives, the Museum traces histories and ancestral links to and from the local area, including those of the Slave Trade and struggles for freedom, situating them in relation to contemporary local issues.

This event takes place on the occasion of ‘Chip On Your Shoulder, the Deptford People’s Heritage Museum’s inaugural exhibition. The exhibition brings together histories of the Deptford Naval Dockyards, from those of exploited workers paid in wooden chips (from which the term ‘Chip on Your Shoulder’ emerged); to its role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade; to its affiliation with the colonial exploits of the East India Company, and its importance in histories of abolition and freedom. These histories are looked at in light of current tendencies in Deptford including the role of transnational developers, gentrification and naming practices that valorise perpetrators of colonial and extractive violence.

The 'Chip on Your Shoulder' exhibition was developed by Deptford People’s Heritage Museum in partnership with The Lenox Project and supported by the Naval Dockyard Society.

This event is developed in partnership with the BA in Curating in Goldsmiths Department of Visual Cultures.

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